Inside Out Blog

What Makes a Great Portrait?

What Makes a Great Portrait?

I am often contacted on social media by photographers of all skill levels, ages and from all over the world. Some just dropping a quick "Love your work" to some asking questions. 

This morning I got a message on Instagram from a photographer. Telling me he had read my blog and is in the same place I was when I first picked up a camera. Terrified to photograph people because they might not like the images. 

He asked what it is that makes a great portrait. The photographer in me wanted to say, The sharpness, the lighting, the composition and the engagement between the sitter and the lens. 

But that would be wrong.

"Briain" ©John Murray Headshots 

"Briain" ©John Murray Headshots 

The truth behind a good portrait isn't really any of those things. I suppose those things are there to support the great image. Sure it's nice to have a good lens, a good camera and nice expensive lighting. 

None of those matter though if who you are photographing isn't visible. I don't mean the form we know as human. I mean who they are on the inside. 

My reply to the message could only be one thing. 

A great portrait is when you see the sitter, for who they are. Not what they look like. When they are just being them and you just happen to push the button. That is a great portrait. 

How you walk in the skin you wear is your decision. Why not embrace it?
What other choice do you have?